Rebuilding basic education in Cambodia: Establishing a more effective development partnership

Research reports and studies
June 2011
Jakob Engel, Pauline Rose

This case study illustrates Cambodia's progress in rebuilding basic education system. The story describes the nature of the progress, analysis of the factors that have contributed to progress and lessons for policy makers.

A long process of reconstruction, following genocide and years of instability and civil war, has resulted in substantial progress in Cambodia’s education system. Almost all children are now entering school, and far more than before are completing primary. The gender gap in primary and lower secondary has effectively been closed. The rate of improvement has been most notable among girls, in rural and remote areas and among lower income quintiles.

Reconstruction in Cambodia was initially characterised by high levels of political conflict and fragility. Since then, the government has worked with development partners to create more functional and effective sector-wide administration and planning, paired with expanded supply-side investments. Several highly innovative local and international NGOs have worked with the most marginalised to improve the quality and relevance of education, fostering community participation and social capital to expand access to the poorest. Education NGOs are now also more integrated into sector planning.

High levels of corruption and low institutional capacity constrain further progress in education. Dropout rates remain high, and low levels of education quality need to be addressed. Meanwhile, efforts to improve incentive structures in educational governance are progressing only gradually. Achieving the MDGs and Education for All (EFA) goals will require substantial further reforms.